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More data will guide sustainable marine policy

By LUCIE MORANGI in Nairobi, Kenya | China Daily | Updated: 2019-09-25 09:41

The governments of Tanzania, Kenya and Mozambique have embarked on a joint data-collection project in a bid to come up with policies to manage resources in the southwestern Indian Ocean.

The project, funded by the German aid agency GTZ, is expected to assist the three countries diversify their economies.

Teams from the three countries will use the latest technology to collect data to address challenges in conservation and management of trans-boundary fisheries. These involve highly migratory fish species of the high seas and coastal areas.

Yahya Mgawe, head of the Fisheries Research and Training section of Tanzania's Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries Development, said new technology makes data collection easier and more comprehensive.

"Data should not only be available to scientists but other stakeholders too, such as fishermen," he said during the launch of the program in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Due to lack of data, many African countries don't know the extent of fish stocks in their territorial waters. It is also difficult to classify which species are overexploited.

Mgawe said the data would enable governments to develop policies that would enhance fish conservation, identify near-extinct species and replenish the waters.

The project borrows lessons from the 25-year moratorium on commercial cod fishing in the waters off Newfoundland, Canada. It led to the recovery of the cod population.

Two species

Scientists from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania have recently collected data on the declining volume of the Nile Perch and Tilapia in Lake Victoria. The two species are commercially fished in the East African region.

The Nile Perch has been known to prey on small fish. Over the recent past, the smaller fish have increased dramatically, perhaps indicating declining numbers of the biggest fish.

Kenya officially launched the Coast Guard Service last year in a bid to increase efficiency in protection of maritime resources. The agency is expected to deal with illegal fishing together with protecting the country's waters against dumping of pollutants.

A report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization found that the proportion of the reported stocks classified as over-exploited has been increasing in the southwest Indian Ocean.

Furthermore, the UN agency revealed rising concerns for the main exploited fish stocks in the region, with the situation presenting a threat to the social and economic sustainability of the fisheries that depend on them.

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